These are some musings from a Labor Day drive I took with my daughter who now has her learner's permit and needs to log 50 hours of driving before she turns 16 so she can get her driver's license. I realize I didn't do a Queen Anne's lace poem this year, as I have often done in the past, and the long-legged lacy flowers are all but gone for the season.
Replaced by golden rods with their yellow tassels waving in the wind, Queen Anne has rolled the last of her lace into tight balls as if to be stored in the bottom drawer of a dresser. The top leaves of the beans are also turning yellow and the corn is drying as the farmers make their final cut of hay
“Take a right,” I say, and my daughter flips the blinkers on and slows down to almost a stall before she navigates the turn and picks up speed.
“How’s that?” she asks.
“Pretty good, but you don’t have to slow down so much.”
The road runs along the river for a bit and at the town of Irving, which is just a cluster of houses void of any commercial interest, we cross the Thornapple at the dam and head northwest, winding around countryside on a Labor Day morning. She needs hours behind the wheel and I need to look at the countryside, so I direct her around the back way to Freeport, a town a little more prosperous than Irving that sits just north of the Coldwater, a pristine trout stream, or so I’m told as I can’t seem to make time to fish it even though it’s only a dozen miles away. Then we make our way back toward Hastings and take State Road out to Vermontville, a community that host the annual Maple Syrup festival in early spring and, in keeping with towns in the state from which it was named, sports a whitewashed wooden Congregational Church at the center. Between Vermontville and Nashville, we cross the Thornapple again, but here it’s just a small stream and only canoeable at high water.
The leaves of sumac in the swamps have turned bright red, and I wonder if it is a warning of what’s ahead. Even a few of the maples have a splash of color, a good month early. And the apple trees seemed to be overly blessed as they droop with fruit. Things are changing; it’ll be an early fall. Does such a blessing indicate a hard winter?
“Watch for buggies,” I tell her as we pass a yellow warning sign.
"I know, Dad.” Her voice is sweet but I’m sure there is an eye roll behind her sunglasses. But this is Amish Country and one has to be alert to slow moving buggies.
“Take a left,” I tell her as we approach Nashville. She signals and slows to a stop at the sign, before turning onto Main Street. “How’s that?” She asks as we pass the café and the bar, the hardware and the grocery store, the playhouse and the old Michigan Central station before turning left for home. “Pretty good,” I say.
For a while the road follows the Old Michigan Central Grade. Next year it’ll be thirty years since they removed the track. On the left a few miles out of Nashville is the Octagon barn, a novelty in these parts. At places beside the highway are strands of dead ash, waiting for a good winter wind to send them back to an earthly grave that they’ll share with the chestnuts. We take a left on 37 and drive through town. It’s time for lunch.
“How did I do,” she asks as she navigates the driveway around the house.
“Pretty good,” I say.